Wednesday, 10 June 2015

2015 Boston Marathon: Transformative, embodied experiences are the most memorable.

Man, can I procrastinate. I write a post, ruminate over it, let it marinade for another two weeks. I have come back down from the high of running the Boston Marathon, and I can confirm that there is nothing that I have experienced that parallels the enormity, the immensity, the experience of the Boston Marathon. So allow me to present the thoughts that stemmed from my experience on April 20th, 2015. It was a trip--one of the best I have ever been a part of in my life! 

From April 27th 2015:
The day before the race--Bluebird and beautiful!!!
One week ago, I took on the Boston marathon. Miles of training, hours of running, so much sacrifice, dedication, dreaming, stress, energy, focus....and it all happened!

There is no race like Boston. It is unique--without parallel. Those who have run Boston will tell you that there are marathon's, but there is only one Boston Marathon. The B.A.A. manages year after year to put on a spectacle--a rolling thunder of an event. Everything about this race is special--Boston is steeped in history and tradition. The Boston Marathon--the scale and scope; the exclusivity of it with it's qualification times; and the spirit surrounding it is absolutely legendary. The race is big to say the least, yet manages somehow to retain a heart that is vibrant, delicate, humble, and warm. Even travelling on the T into town, I met people from all over the world--Norway, Brasil, California, who were either there to run or to support the race by volunteering. People actually flew from California to volunteer at the Boston Marathon handing out water!!

Race kit prepped!
I started chasing the Boston Marathon in 2012, hoping to be fast enough to qualify for the race in under 3 hours and 10 minutes for my age category at the age of 35. I had to wait a while, but by 2013, I made that happen. Posting a BQ, I have been bent on running the marathon in under 3 hours. This is still the goal, one that I had entering the 2015 Boston Marathon, my eight attempt at the marathon distance.

I packed more into a 48 hour time frame in Boston than I perhaps had ever, anywhere. My travels started on Saturday morning out of Vancouver. I was on my taper week in prep for the race, and my last run was Wednesday.  Due to work and a stiff neck, I was trying my best to relax and recoup some energy by taking it easy and trying to offload some stress on the plane ride. For the days leading up to the race, I was not sleeping each restfully each night, too excited for what was about to happen. My energy and cortisol levels were at all time highs, and I was having troubles calming myself, highly anticipating the biggest running event of my life.
I did not cross the line out of superstition the day before the race.

Arriving in Montreal Philip and I had a bit of a layover for dinner, then on to Boston to arrive Saturday evening. A full day of travel done, even though next time I would love to run in the Saturday BAA 5k race--some poor planning on my part in missing that one. Sunday was on to the Team Canada breakfast at Dick's (near Cheers), and then on to time spent touring around the Expo and walking the city.
Philip and me at package pick up.
Attending the Marathon Expo at the Hynes Convention Center is an effort in fiscal restraint. After picking up my number on Sunday Morning (which was a very speedy process) I had to hold back from spending money on just about anything that looked cool. The official adidas merch section of the Expo was impressive--I was concerned that I might not walk away with my coveted souvenir shirt, but thankfully, there was so much selection this year in gear. Franco Dotto, who ran the event in 2014, told me that by Sunday all the stuff was so picked over, that finding the right sizes of certain items was tough. I did stock up on some gear, not knowing if and when I might return to this race. After the Expo, my Father-In-Law and I went to the finish line to snap some photos, get back on the train and hang out at our hotel before the athlete's dinner at City Hall that evening.
The cavernous, concrete City Hall of Boston amazingly had some pretty rocking vibes going on both out and inside!
The athlete's dinner was spectacular! I mean, they have to feed 30,000 people, the food is not Sardi's or anything, but it was not terrible. Arriving at our designated seating time, Philip and myself joined a line that snaked around the whole building to the south east steps. I thought that we would never get to the front of the cue, but within a few minutes, the line moved fairly quickly. Music in the air, sample yogurts, and at the foot of the building, so many volunteers handing out containers and food for all athletes who took part. Once inside, finding a seat was not too hard, as we followed our nose downstairs. City Hall was all decked out in Marathon livery--lighting, banners, a buzz that was pretty cool for having so many people come through prior to the next morning's race. We left after our pasta meal with a dessert/ breakfast bag that partially took care of our morning needs. We caught the train back to West Newton, and proceeded to have a second dinner at the hotel bar to ensure proper fueling for the morning. Nothing like lobster quesadillas at 10pm the night before the biggest run event of your life.

5 am came soon enough after a rather restless night of sleep. Some pre-race prep making sure that we had our bags properly labelled and secured, a breakfast that consisted of clif bars and some fruit--not ideal marathon nutrition prep, a cup of coffee(--of which I discovered on this trip just how awesome coffee actually is after years of being an anti-coffee snob), and onto the train to Boston Common from Riverside. After a very well organized bag check and onto the school buses in Boston Common, Philip and I managed to get on the same bus out despite him having a start time of an hour after mine.
While riding the school buses out to Hopkinton, I was a big mess of stress--nervous and anxious for my run. Although adidas called it "The greatest run ever". Although that might be presumptuous and "high praise!", it was not far off for me.

I did not grab one of these posters at the Expo, and now wish that I had seen them there.
In Hopkinton, we de-bused and I b-lined it for the bushes to relieve myself--pent up nerves and caffeine have a way of contributing to a robust and full bladder. One of the coolest things on one of the cooler days for a marathon that I have seen was that at the Athlete's village, vollies were giving our space blankets to wrap oneself in before the beginning of the race. After grabbing one, we made our way to the industrial sized tents that were set up to keep everyone either dry or out of the sun. Today, dry was the keyword.

The rain began. And rain it did. For my start time at 10:00am, I had two hours and a half to wait in those tents, with staging beginning at 9:00am. Dressed in throwaway clothes that did manage to keep me somewhat warm, I had my second cup of coffee under the tent. That would prove to manifest itself into becoming a pitstop early on in the race.

In the staging area, I managed to spend some time with another runner named Mike Reitmeyer. He and I spoke about our very close qualification times, his stress fracture, my goals, where we live, etc. It was a pretty anxious yet joyous atmosphere. The dude in the compression socks and WWE fire engine red wrestler's shorts lightened the mood as I saw him prancing or strolling topless a number of times in the athlete's village, and at the starting area. 7 degrees, 20 mile per hour winds, and buddy is in his skivvies. Brave souls, these runners.

The race started after the Pledge of Allegiance, the singing of the Star Spangled Banner, and then a short wait to cross the startline and get our race on. I was surprised with how quickly things moved with 8000 people in the first wave. But again, that is Boston--they do everything right.

Crossing the start line, I began to run at an even pace to warm up. Pretty soon down the road, I moved to the bushes to let bladder out. Keeping a full tank of liquid can lead to trouble down the way, and I wanted no problems later on. That was the first and only stop I made on the course.

The 8 towns that runners pass through are kind of a blur, and they are all pretty quaint, cute, and humble--a good representation of small town America. Sounds of Bruce Springsteen, garage bands playing, smokies roasting on bar-be-ques, spectators handing out beer, water, kids looking for hi-fives, screams and cheers--all for 26.2 miles the course is lined with masses of people. The energy that the community brings collectively matches or even exceeds that of what the runners bring. I was settled into a pace of between 4:09 and 4:12 for the first few kms. I knew that this was going to be good-- a conservative pace that I could keep for a majority of the race. I knew that I would have to dig deep after heartbreak hill, but I was not concerned with that at these early stages of the race--every marathon is like that.

Looking to be in a spot of bother. Check the stride length.
I ticked along, keeping pace through the first half, crossing the half at nearly in Wellesley at 1:30:00 even. I knew that running an even split was going to be tough, but the this is Boston, and so far, I was pretty jacked to be in the race. Nearly one mile out, the screams of the Sirens of Wellesley College can be heard. Notorious for the almost rabid-like female students who line the course and scream at the runners at near ear drum splitting levels, the women of Wellesley are world famous. By the Women's College, I was tempted to stop for a kiss, but thought it inappropriate, so instead, I slowed, leaned in and had a student smear a kiss across my cheek and ear as I ran by. I did not take any more time out of my race to make an effort to allow a twenty-something lay a bisou on this thirty-something. The smear kiss was pretty funny, and it would have to suffice. Wellesley provided a confidence boost for the short term.
My favorite shot of the day. My face says it all--joy, pain, fear, disbelief. Shock. Happiness. Heelstriking.
The downhill out of the Wellesely College was quick, and the flats/rollers leading into the Newton hills were simply bone drenching, cold, windy miles. The climbs in Newton are not too terribly bad at all. In fact, they are easier than Camosun in Vancouver. They are most probably like Thrift in White Rock--steady, even, not too steep. I suppose it is cliche, but it is not the climb, but where the climb is in the race.

Late in the race, around mile 19, this is when mental toughness has to take hold. Going out too fast or too conservative can be troublesome at this point. Going out too fast, and the hills will nearly end your day. Going out too slow, the rhythm of that conservative pace can chip away at your gears leaving a runner with no 5th or 6th gear to hit at the end of the race. I know this because I failed to kill it in the final 8k at this one to meet my time goal. My racing mate Darbara told me to run hard from the start and not worry about the hills. I raced conservatively, and it prevented me from going faster when I needed to. I think that some more, longer tempo runs may have helped in that department.

Along with my conservative pace, I suppose that my result may have been better had I not stopped for hi-fives with children, kisses from the co-eds, or if the weather might have been a bit more hospitable like the day before the race. However, I am happy with the result, my best marathon to date.

I remember coming into Boston proper feeling like the adidas adios Boost's on my feet were like lead weights--I think I had used up the cushion-y goodness in the first 22 miles. The rain was sheeting--really coming down hard as I raced to the Citgo sign. I knew that my goal time of sub 3 was shot, but I fought on to try and run my quickest marathon yet. It was still within reach.

Right on Hereford, left on Boyleston. I remember the last 5k ticking them off as fast as I could. But rounding the last two turns, I was emotional--. I kept telling myself that this was a dream realized, that this was what I had wanted before me right now, here on Boyleston. And the moment was beautiful. I was tearful thinking about my Mom and Dad, thinking about the bombings, thinking about those that had run this route for years before me, thinking about my family. It was lovely, bittersweet, overwhelming, and triumphant to be part of something so grand.

Left on Boyleston--jacked!!
The course as tracked my Movescount.
Elevation profile from Movescount.

The winds howled, the rain was cold and driving, and still, I had the run of my life. I finished the race shattered--cold and drenched--more from the weather than anything else as I made my zombie walk to Boston Common with all the other racers who death marched to the bag check, regaled in heat sheets printed with John Hancock's John Hancock and the BAA unicorn all over them.

After changing into some more comfortable dry clothes, I made my way over to the family meeting area to meet up with Philip. On the way there, I received a number of congratulations from the locals, but none more friendly that the 7 kids I bumped into on Boyleston. We stood in traffic on the center median for what seemed like an hour chatting about the race, hockey, being from Boston, talking about the marathon and how it had changed from two years ago. These kids were just what I needed at the end of the race--a true pick me up for feeling like total s#it at the end of the marathon.

My Boston peeps. Sharing the love of a beautiful day!
I have to say that chatting with these (ahem) university students, and sharing a beverage made my whole day. We continued to walk and talk on our way to the family pick up area where I met up with Philip. He managed to roll out a 4:09 on literally minimal training, save for the treadmill, at the age of 62. BOOM!! I think that wins the day!

Family meet up in the winter like conditions. At least, winter for us on the wet coast.
Yes, it was grand, bold, like a tidal wave. It also had heart, soul, love, and a Christmas morning like atmosphere around it. Boston is a beautiful town--a place that I will return to. I loved my short time there and encourage anyone who has the desire to run the marathon to do it at least once in your lifetime. It is unforgettable--a transformative experience.

Only the best at Fenway.
The top 5 on the Fenway screen.
I even bumped into local lower mainland runner Candice Ridyard while at the post race party at Fenway. That was pretty cool to see a familiar face, one whom I have only known on social media. 
Pretty much tops for me here--highlight of the trip!!!

I will be back!

The love I have for this race is in my bones. It is in my heart. I have fond memories of my short time in Boston, and cannot wait to experience that again.

It is infectious, contagious.

There's only one.

Boston Marathon 2015.


Sugoi Brand Champion Shorts and Race Shirt
adidas adios boost (v1), size 13
Suunto Ambit 2
BMO Vancouver Marathon gloves

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